When I was a kid, Labor Day was a melancholy day. It marked the end of summer, the public pool was closing and the next day school began. Not much to thrill a kid.

But it was also a big celebration in my neighborhood. Most of my neighbors were members of labor unions and honoring the great contributions that American workers made to the strength, prosperity and vitality of our nation made them very proud.

They deserved to be honored every day, but this was their day--officially.

Labor Day has been celebrated in various forums since the late 19th Century. In fact, by the time Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, 30 states already celebrated an official Labor Day.

Most of my neighbors were Democrats. There was a variety of reasons for that. Some were historic, some cultural and some based upon their membership in labor unions.

They were almost all fiscal conservatives. They worked hard for their money and they didn't want high taxes to take away their ability to use those hard-earned dollars.

When the government did take their money, they wanted to be sure it was wisely and well spent. They distrusted bureaucracies. They didn't think faceless bureaucrats in Washington or Harrisburg could decide better than they could how those dollars should be spent.

They wanted government to work for them. They wanted their kids to have a future better than theirs. They wanted a thriving middle class. They aggressively opposed totalitarianism in any of its forms. They rejected socialism.

They were capitalists to the core. They knew what capitalism had done to gain the prosperity they enjoyed, as modest as it may have been.

They celebrated American exceptionalism, loved the flag and were proud ticket-splitters at election time.

They may have been registered as Democrats, but a lot of Republicans got their votes.

They were the reason that so many Republicans could win in a state like ours where Democrats sometimes outnumbered them by a million votes.

My old boss, President Ronald Reagan, himself a former union leader (and the only President of the Unites States who was also president of a union), grabbed the endorsement of the country's largest labor union in 1980.

The Teamsters said they were leaving Jimmy Carter, whom they endorsed four years earlier, in favor of Reagan, because of "...considerable rank-and-file support...among the membership for Reagan."

Four years later they again supported Reagan, citing a survey of their nearly two and a half million members that showed significantly more support for Reagan than for Mondale.

The term "Reagan Democrats" was born largely because of support for The Gipper in these households.

Like the later termed "soccer moms," they existed before the phrase was coined. There was now popular expression for the phenomena.

They flocked to Reagan who promised to cut their taxes, create economic growth and a "rising tide" that would lift their boats. They also grabbed his promise to make sure that "the voice of the American worker will once again be heard and heeded in Washington..."

Economic growth was the key to Reagan's political success with American workers. One word the labor movement understands better than any is JOBS. They know that good jobs create a stronger economy and that a bigger pie means a larger slice for everybody.

Almost four decades later, President Donald Trump invited a group of labor leaders to the White House. It was just three days after he took office. Several major union leaders said they went the entire Obama administration without being invited to a similar meeting.

Trump spent most of the meeting talking about his plans for major roads and bridges projects, a huge creator of jobs.

As in the days of Reagan, America is on the move again. More than three million jobs have been created since Trump took office. That may pale in comparison to Reagan's job creation, but it's one of many indicators of a thriving and booming economy.

Unemployment is less than four percent, GDP growth is above four percent for the current quarter and the markets are at all-time highs. Economic growth is the key to happy citizens and electoral success. Voters tend to reward the incumbent party when the economy is strong.

As the nation celebrates the prosperity American workers have achieved, those workers may not be as focused on what their union leadership would like them to do politically as they are on their own family budget and how to make it stronger.

PennLive Opinion contributor Charlie Gerow is the CEO of Quantum Communications in Harrisburg. His "Donkeys & Elephants" column appears weekly opposite progressive commentator Kirstin Snow.

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